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Don Stewart :: What Objections Have Been Made to the Resurrection?

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Don Stewart

If Jesus did not come back from the dead, as the New Testament plainly says He did, then some alternative explanation must be offered to explain what happened. The problem is that other explanations take as much faith to believe as the New Testament's account. These alternative theories leave more questions unanswered than they explain.

How To Falsify The Resurrection Of Jesus

First, we want to make it clear that it is theoretically possible to falsify the resurrection account. It can be done in one of two ways. Either some has to:

  1. produce the body; or
  2. have a reasonable theory that explains all the evidence.

Since the body has not been produced, we will examine the major theories that attempt to explain away the New Testament account. These include:

  1. The Real Story Was Suppressed.
  2. The Story About Jesus Became Embellished.
  3. The Body Was Stolen.
  4. Jesus Did Not Actually Die On The Cross.
  5. The Women Went To The Wrong Tomb On Easter Sunday.
  6. The Gardener Removed The Body (The Lettuce Theory).
  7. There Was A Twin Brother Of Jesus.
  8. The Disciples Merely Had Hallucinations About Seeing the Risen Jesus.
  9. Jesus Actually Appeared But Only In A Vision.
  10. Jesus Appeared To Believers Only - Those Expecting A Resurrection.
  11. The Reports About His Resurrection Are Hopelessly Contradictory.
  12. It Doesn't Matter What Happened.

We will now take a look at each of these objections and evaluate them in light of all the evidence.

Objection 1: The Real Story Was Suppressed

There are many people who question the accuracy of the New Testament account of the resurrection. They contend that the true story was never told because the facts had been suppressed by those later in power. Any evidence to the contrary would have been burned or destroyed.

Response

The answer to this view is simple - there were unbelievers who gave alternative theories to the resurrection, their writings were not suppressed. We have writings from unbelievers who all argue that the body was stolen - they all admit the body was gone the third day. There was no attempt to suppress their ideas.

There Was No Better Explanation

However, they had no better explanation than Jesus' disciples stole His body. This popular theory by the unbelievers was certainly not suppressed by the Christians. To the contrary, Matthew records this theory in his gospel.

Objection 2: The Story Became Embellished

One of the most popular explanations has been to say the stories about Jesus have been embellished. From a simple teacher Jesus' disciples turned Him into the resurrected Son of God.

There Was Not Enough Time

The problem with this theory is that there is not enough time for this to happen. Paul's earliest letter, First Thessalonians, refutes that. The fact that Christ was killed is stated in First Thessalonians.

Who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men (1 Thessalonians 2:15).

Paul also wrote to the Thessalonians.

We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

This was written about A.D. 51, less than twenty years after the resurrection.

Moreover legends do not produce Pentecost, the changed lives of the disciples, or the conversion of Saul. A legend would not produce an empty tomb.

Objection 3: The Stolen Body Theory

Many argue the body of Jesus was removed from the tomb before Easter Sunday morning. Since the evidence proves the tomb was empty the question is, "What caused it to be empty?" The empty tomb means two possibilities: the body of Jesus was removed by either: (1) human hands or (2) supernatural power.

Did Human Hands Take The Body Of Jesus?

If human hands removed the body of Jesus, then we have four basic possibilities as to who did it. The suspects include:

  1. The Jews
  2. The Romans
  3. Joseph of Arimathea
  4. Jesus' disciples.

Two questions immediately arise about the stolen body theory. First, concerning His enemies and Joseph of Arimathea, "Would they have stolen the body?" Next, His disciples, "Could they have stolen the body?"

Did The Jews Steal The Body Of Jesus?

The Jews could have had the body of Jesus removed from the tomb, yet they had no motivation for such an act. Some have argued they may have removed the body to keep the site from becoming a place of pilgrimage for Jesus' disciples. Yet this would have caused the sort of problem they were trying to avoid - rumors that Jesus had risen.

The Jews are the ones who asked for the guard because they were afraid His disciples would come and steal the body. If they had taken the body, then certainly they would have produced it fifty days later when Peter, in the same city of Jerusalem, proclaimed that Jesus had risen.

Could The Romans Have Taken Jesus' Body?

A second possible group, that could have removed Jesus' body, was the Romans. Since they were in charge of keeping law and order, it is possible that they could have taken the body from the tomb. The problem with them is also lack of motivation. Why would they do such a thing? They wanted to keep the peace. Stealing the body of an executed religious leader would only add to the rumors about Him. It would stir up greater conflict. Consequently, there is no motivation for them to steal the body.

Furthermore, when the Christian faith began to grow, they could have easily stopped it by producing the body. But they did not do this.

Did Joseph Of Arimathea Rob His Own Tomb?

He obviously had access to Christ's body since He is the one who requested it from Pilate. It is argued that he may have had second thoughts about placing the body of Jesus in his family tomb. Thus he could have removed Jesus' body after the initial burial and placed it elsewhere - possibly in an unmarked grave.

Again, we have no motivation for him to do such a thing - especially since he and Nicodemus took the time and expense to prepare Jesus for burial. If he removed the body, then why didn't he tell anyone? Furthermore, it was not the empty tomb that caused the other disciples to believe in Jesus - it was seeing the risen Christ.

Did The Disciples Of Jesus Steal The Body?

The oldest alternative explanation to the resurrection is that the body of Jesus was stolen by His disciples while the guard was sleeping. Matthew tells us this was the story the bribed Roman guard was to tell, even though they knew it was false:

Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, 'Tell them, his disciples came at night and stole him away while we slept. And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure.' So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day (Matthew 28:11-15).

The idea that the disciples stole the body is inadequate for the following reasons:

1. Could They Get Past The Guards?

To begin with, the disciples would have had to get by the guards at the tomb. This theory has the guard members conveniently asleep. The disciples would have had to move the large stone away from the tomb without waking any of them. While this is not impossible, it certainly is inconsistent with the facts as we know them.

2. Why Leave Behind Grave Clothes?

If the Roman guard was asleep you need to move fast. The position of the grave clothes shows the impossibility of the theft of the body. Why take the time to remove the grave clothes and leave them behind? It would have been much easier to remove the body, grave clothes and all, especially if time were a factor. The explanation that the Roman guard was asleep does not help solve this problem.

3. How Could The Guard Testify?

Furthermore, the guard story doesn't stand up to cross-examination. What does anyone know when they are asleep? If the guard were sleeping, how did they know the disciples stole the body? How can you determine anything that's going on while you are asleep? Couldn't Jesus, just as easily, have risen from the dead while they were asleep without the guards knowing it?

4. The Disciples Would Have Been Liars

The stolen body theory would make the disciples deliberate liars. These are the same disciples who gave us the New Testament - the same New Testament where they reported Jesus was sinless. They testified He never lied - rather He always told the truth. Yet this theory wants people to believe that His disciples, while spreading the message of the truth-telling Jesus, lied and continued to lie about the most important event in His life! On the one hand, they proclaimed to the world the story of the most perfect man who ever lived, on the other hand, according to the stolen body theory, they pulled off this gigantic deception.

Even if they could have gotten past the Roman guard to get to the body, they would have had to live with that lie for the rest of their lives, proclaiming it, suffering for it, and dying for it. They would have been preaching the resurrection in direct contradiction to their own knowledge of the truth.

5. They Had No Motivation For Stealing The Body

Assuming the disciples could have stolen the body, another set of questions arise, "What motivated them to do it?" By proclaiming Christ had risen, they subjected themselves to beatings and jail. They eventually died for their testimony. If they had stolen the body, they would have been liars as well as thieves. They would not only have lied for the cause, they would have died for their lie. What advantage would there have been for doing this? There was nothing to be gained for lying about Jesus.' Their Lord's body received a proper burial. They had nothing to gain and everything to lose by stealing His body. Thus we can find no motivation for the disciples stealing the body. Their leader was buried with loving hands in a tomb of a rich man. Since they were not expecting Him to rise from the dead, this would have been the best end to Jesus' life - all things considered.

6. There Was No Time To Plan The Theft

There is also the problem of time. Jesus was betrayed on Thursday night and brought to trial Friday morning. His crucifixion took place from approximately 9:00 to 3:00 on Friday. At sundown on Friday the Sabbath began and the disciples, as observant Jews, would rest. The end of the Sabbath was on Saturday night. The first visit to the tomb realistically would have been on Sunday morning. By then Jesus had risen. There was simply no time to steal the body.

7. The Mental State Of The Disciples Has To Be Considered

The mental state of the disciples also needs to be considered. They were now leaderless for the first time in three years. All the disciples left Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane. Later Peter denied Jesus and John was looking after Jesus' mother. Being afraid and leaderless, did they suddenly become brave? After the surprise betrayal and crucifixion, is it really possible to think they concocted a plan late Friday afternoon to have the body removed by Sunday morning?

8. The Transformed Lives Of The Disciples Has To Be Explained

The mere removal of Jesus' body from the tomb could not have transformed their sadness into gladness. In less than thirty-six hours, they went from the depths of despair to the heights of joy. They had lost hope when Christ died, but they immediately went from hopelessness to certainty, from cowards to eventual martyrs. Something gave them the power to sustain their preaching during persecution and martyrdom. A stolen body would not have changed their lives in this manner.

9. Liars Are Usually Caught

There is another important point - liars are usually caught in their lies. This is especially true when a number of different people are lying. Cover-ups have a way of becoming public, yet none of the disciples ever denied the resurrection. If Jesus had not risen, one would have expected the eventual confession of at least some of them. But they all went to their deaths proclaiming Christ had risen. Why?

10. Why Weren't The Disciples Prosecuted?

According to Roman law, the body of a condemned criminal belonged to the state. That is why Joseph of Arimathea had to ask for Jesus' body. To steal a body was a serious offense and it is odd that neither the Romans nor Jews did anything to substantiate the charges if the body had been stolen. The disciples were never prosecuted for this alleged crime. Why?

11. Then Jesus Would Have Also Been A Liar

If Jesus did not rise, that would make Him a liar because He predicted His resurrection. As we have seen, lying is totally contrary to everything we know about His character.

12. Why No Veneration Of His Burial Place?

The Jews venerated the graves of their religious leaders. If Christ were not buried in Joseph's tomb, then He must have been buried elsewhere, yet there is no trace of any burial place in Jerusalem for the body of Jesus. No tradition exists anywhere that Jesus remained buried.

13. Why Did They Die?

Finally, there is the ultimate question, "Why did they die?" If they had stolen the body, they would have died for a lie knowing it was a lie. The disciples who would have "died for a lie" included Peter (crucified); Andrew (crucified); James, son of Alphaeus (crucified); Philip (crucified); Simon (crucified); Thaddaeus (killed with arrows); Thomas (died by a spear thrust); Bartholomew (crucified); and James, the son of Zebedee (killed with the sword). Jesus' disciples were transformed from cowards to martyrs. Why?

It is one thing to lie; it is quite another thing to die for a lie if you know that it is a lie. The disciples sealed their testimony in their own blood. To save their own life they would only have had to confess to lying, yet they never recanted their testimony.

They Each Died Separately

Furthermore, they died separately. It is one thing to die as a member of a group - strength could be gained from each other as you are awaiting death. However, each of the disciples died separately, apart from one another, apart from any type of moral support. Again, we ask the question, "Why?"

This Theory Is Inadequate

These different factors make the popular stolen body theory inadequate at best. The disciples were no longer capable of raiding the tomb and the other possible culprits had no motivation for stealing Jesus' body.

Objection 4: Jesus Did Not Die On The Cross

A favorite objection is that Jesus did not die on the cross, but rather He fainted from exhaustion. When He appeared to His disciples, it was not as the resurrected Lord but rather as one who had been resuscitated. Therefore, what we have is resuscitation, not a resurrection. Like the other objections to the resurrection, there are many problems with this theory.

1. The Romans Did Their Job Well

Crucifixion was common in Jesus' time and the Roman soldiers had become experts at it. They had reduced it to a science with a set of rules to be followed. There is no possible way Jesus could have survived the crucifixion, scourging, and lance thrust.

Since the governor had personally condemned Jesus to death, it is highly unlikely the soldiers would make a mistake and not finish the job. Furthermore, we have Pilate cross-examining the centurion to make certain that Jesus had died:

And when evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And Pilate wondered if he was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether he was already dead. And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph (Mark 15:42-45).

2. The Breaking Of Jesus' Legs Was Not Necessary

Crucifixion was a slow, painful way to die, with the person usually dying of asphyxiation. The victim had to push his body up in order to breathe. Therefore, breaking of the legs would hasten the death of victim. The legs of the two robbers that were crucified next to Jesus were broken because the Passover was drawing near. Passover began at sunset, and according to Jewish law, bodies could not be left on the cross on that Holy Day. Jesus' legs were not broken because He was obviously dead. In addition, Pilate would not have given permission for Joseph to take Jesus' body for burial if He were not already dead.

3. Blood And Water Came Out From His Side

We are told that at Jesus' death, blood and water came out from His side when it was pierced with a spear.

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water (John 19:34).

The purpose of the spear thrust was to ensure that Jesus was dead. This is eyewitness detail - which shows that death did indeed occur. The blood and water coming out is an outward sign that someone has died.

4. How Did Jesus Get Out Of The Tomb?

Another question that needs to be addressed is, "How did Jesus get out of the tomb in the first place?" He had been wrapped in grave clothes and the spices would have hardened around Him in a few hours. This would make His escape difficult, if not impossible - assuming He was still alive. There was also a large stone rolled in front of the tomb that is virtually impossible to move from the inside. In addition, the guards had to have been conveniently asleep for Jesus to get by them.

5. Jesus Would Have Been Perpetrating A Deliberate Hoax

If this theory is correct, then Jesus would have been guilty of perpetrating a deliberate hoax by passing Himself off as one who had risen from the dead. He did not tell His disciples that He narrowly escaped death, He told them He had risen. This would make Jesus a liar - contrary to everything we know about Him and His character.

6. Would This Convince The Disciples?

If Jesus had survived His crucifixion, He would have been in an extremely weak condition. It is not possible to believe that a man who was half-dead, crawling around weak and needing immediate medical treatment, could have given His disciples the impression that He had just conquered death. This type of appearance of Jesus would not have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, and caused them to worship Him as risen from the dead.

7. When Did He Die?

If it were a mere resuscitation we are faced with the question of when did He die? Where, if anywhere, was He buried? Why wasn't His other tomb venerated?

The evidence is clear - Jesus died on Calvary's cross. Therefore, any theory that attempts to explain away the resurrection must take this fact into account.

Objection 5: The Women Went To The Wrong Tomb

Kirsopp Lake, the great textual scholar, came up with this ridiculous theory. Simply stated: the women were not sure where Jesus was buried and hence they went in the semi-darkness to an empty tomb, thinking it was the tomb where Jesus was actually buried. When they found the tomb empty they assumed He had risen.

Supposedly the young man they saw that dark morning confirmed they were at the wrong tomb.

Mark 16:6 says, "Do not be alarmed, you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him."

Professor Lake omits the words "he has risen" from the text. Therefore the young man is saying to the women, "He is not here, He is over there. Come see where they have placed Him."

Let's consider the problems with this theory:

1. The Body Would Still Have Been In The Tomb

There are so many problems with this theory - not the least of which is that the body would still have been in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb. When Peter preached the resurrection on the Day of Pentecost, it would have been a simple thing to go to the correct tomb and produce the body.

2. It Was Too Dark For The Gardener

In addition, if it were too dark for the women to find the right tomb, it would have been too dark for a gardener or caretaker to be working.

3. There Is No Reason To Omit The Words

Furthermore, to argue for this theory, you have to omit from the text the words, "He has risen." There is no justification for this omission for every manuscript has these crucial words.

4. The Empty Tomb Did Not Cause Belief

Finally, it was not the empty tomb that convinced the disciples that Jesus had risen, it was the fact they saw Him after His death. No one really takes this theory seriously.

Objection 6: The Gardener Removed The Body (The Lettuce Theory)

The "lettuce theory" was one of the earliest explanations of the empty tomb by non-believers. It is similar to the wrong tomb theory. Supposedly the gardener at the tomb where Jesus was buried was upset with all the curiosity seekers who were trampling over his newly planted lettuce seeds. This caused him to remove the body from the tomb and bury it elsewhere. When visitors came to the now empty tomb they assumed that Jesus had risen from the dead.

The lettuce theory has many of the same problems as other theories.

1. How Did He Get Past The Guards?

Even if such a lettuce garden existed and this gardener wanted the people to stop trampling on his seeds he still would have to get by the guard, remove the seal and the stone, steal the body, nicely wrap the grave clothes and leave them at the tomb and then rebury the body elsewhere. It is not very realistic to assume that he could have, or would have, done all of this.

2. Why Didn't He Come Forward?

If the gardener had removed the body to keep visitors from ruining his lettuce seeds, then why didn't he tell anyone? Why did he let the story about Jesus resurrection be told and retold in the same city- Jerusalem. Why didn't he tell the authorities? He had nothing to gain by remaining silent.

3. The Empty Tomb Did Not Cause Belief

We again emphasize it was not the empty tomb that caused the disciples to believe in the resurrection it was seeing the risen Christ. Merely removing the body does not explain the appearances of Jesus, His ascension, the disciples later miracles, and the conversion of Saul to Paul.

Objection 7: The Twin Brother Theory (An Imposter Appeared)

This theory states that the disciples actually did see someone after Jesus' death on the cross who looked exactly like Jesus - His identical twin brother. Like magicians who often have twins for assistants Jesus had a twin brother that no one knew about. After Jesus' death on the cross, the twin brother appeared causing people to believe that Jesus had risen.

The following things may be said in response to the twin brother theory.

1. There Is No Twin Brother Known

There is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus had a twin brother. The birth accounts in Matthew and Luke make it clear that only one child was born to Joseph and Mary - not identical twins. No record exists anywhere of Jesus having a twin brother.

2. His Step Brothers Would Have Known About The Imposter

Scripture says that at first Jesus own brothers "did not believe in Him" (John 7:5). However after His resurrection they became believers. Certainly something caused them to believe. It would not be the appearance of one of their twin brothers (had the twins even existed). They certainly would have known the difference.

3. How Was He Able To Appear And Reappear?

How would any imposter be able to appear and reappear at will? The risen Christ appeared to His disciples in the Upper Room through locked doors. He also disappeared in front of the eyes of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. How could anyone do such a thing?

4. How Did He Have The Marks Of Crucifixion?

We are told that when Jesus appeared to doubting Thomas he offered to show Thomas the nail prints in His hand and the scar of the spear thrust into his side. How was an imposter able to match these wounds?

5. There Were Other Miracles Connected With Jesus' Death

The Bible says that a number of miracles were connected with Jesus death. How was the veil of the Temple torn in half upon the death of Jesus? Who let certain people out of the graves and gave them the ability to appear to people in Jerusalem. These miracles connected with the death of Jesus have to be explained.

6. Who Ascended Into Heaven?

Are we to assume the twin brother ascended into heaven in front of all the disciples? How was he able to arrange that?

7. Where Would He Go?

The imposter would have to keep out of sight after the ascension since the Scripture is adamant that Jesus never appeared to His disciples again. Where did he hide?

8. How Was Saul Converted?

Are we to assume that some imposter arranged for Saul of Tarsus to be struck down by a blinding light and then convince him it was Jesus of Nazareth?

9. Who Gave Disciples Power To Work Miracles?

How were the disciples, and later the Apostle Paul, able to work miracles? They attributed the power to Jesus. How could He give them any power if He were dead?

Objection 8: The Disciples Experienced Hallucinations

Another objection to the resurrection is the contention that His disciples experienced hallucinations. This does not make them liars as much as fools. The disciples only thought they saw Jesus, for He had not really risen. Hallucinations often occur when someone wishes for something so much. This theory holds the disciples saw exactly what they wanted to see.

We respond to this as follows:

1. The Body Would Have Still Been In The Tomb

The hallucination theory does not explain how the tomb became empty, or why the authorities failed to produce a body. The enemies of Jesus could have permanently silenced His disciples by producing the body of Jesus. Since they did not produce a body, it leaves open the question what happened to Jesus. The authorities could have produced the body, ending any testimony that Jesus had risen. The hallucination theory does not explain the missing body.

2. Hallucinations Are Not Collective

Furthermore, hallucinations are not collective, individuals experience them. Five hundred people at one time do not have the same hallucination!

3. Hallucinations Do Not Just Come And Go

Hallucinations tend to increase in intensity and occur on a regular basis over a long period. They become worse not better. According to Scripture, it was after forty days that the appearances of Jesus stopped and He did not appear again. This is inconsistent with the nature of hallucinations.

4. Who Gave Them Power To Work Miracles?

If the disciples were only hallucinating about seeing the risen Christ, then how were they able to perform miracles? Who gave the disciples the power to heal the sick and raise the dead?

5. Who Appeared To Paul?

Saul of Tarsus, who became the Apostle Paul, was converted as an unbeliever. Are we to assume that he had the same hallucination?

6. The Disciples Did Not Expect Jesus To Rise

According to the New Testament, the disciples did not expect Jesus to rise because they had not expected Him to die. When Jesus appeared to them it was unexpected, they were not ready for it. The disciples did not convince themselves that Jesus was alive; it was Jesus Himself who convinced them. This was the exact opposite of what they were expecting.

He Was Not Who They Originally Thought

For example, Mary Magdalene did not see a gardener near the empty tomb and think it was Jesus, she saw Jesus and thought it was a gardener. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not talk with a stranger and then assume they were conversing with Jesus. The talked with Jesus and thought they were conversing with a stranger. Finally, in the upper room, the disciples of Jesus did not see a ghost and believe it was Jesus, they saw Jesus and thought they had seen a ghost.

7. Only Certain Types Of People Suffer Hallucinations

Usually it is highly imaginative people who suffer hallucinations. The appearances of Jesus were to a diverse group of people of different psychological makeup. This included: fishermen, a tax collector, and a Rabbi.

8. Jesus Appeared At Different Times And Places

The appearances of Christ occurred at different times and places: early in the morning, late afternoon, in the evening, at the garden tomb, in a crowded room, at the Sea of Galilee, on top of a mountain, and on the Emmaus road. This is not consistent with hallucinations.

Summary

Again, we have a theory that just does not fit all the facts. Jesus' disciples saw more than mere hallucinations.

Objection 9: Only Jesus' Spirit Appeared

This theory denies the bodily resurrection of Christ but does say that Jesus did appear after His death. However He did not appear in a body. Rather Jesus' spirit appeared and told them of life in the next world. Consequently the disciples did not lie when they said Jesus appeared to them - He appeared to them as a spirit or a temporary materialization.

Response

Jesus Himself denied that He was some sort of spirit without a body.

Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have (Luke 24:39).

This theory does hold to the miraculous appearing of Jesus, that of materializing to His disciples. However nothing is gained by substituting this miracle for another.

The big problem with this view is that it has Jesus deceiving His disciples. He gave them the impression that He appeared bodily after His death.

There is also the additional issue of the empty tomb. If it were merely a vision of Jesus, even if divinely inspired, the body would still be in the tomb.

Objection 10: Jesus Only Appeared To Believers

One of the objections is that Jesus appeared only to believers - people who already had a desire to believe the marvelous stories about Him. Again, the facts say otherwise.

1. The Disciples Were The First Unbelievers

We are told that the first unbelievers of the resurrection story were none other than the disciples themselves.

And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them (Luke 24:11).

2. Doubting Thomas Was An Unbeliever

Thomas did not believe - even when the other disciples told him they had seen the risen Christ.

The other disciples therefore were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I shall see in his hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).

3. Others Disciples Also Doubted

We are even told that when Jesus met His disciples in Galilee, there were some who doubted.

And when they saw him, they worshiped him; but some were doubtful (Matthew 28:17).

4. Paul Was A Non-believer

Paul was not a believer when the resurrected Christ appeared to Him. He had to be convinced from his position of unbelief.

Objection 11: The Reports Are Contradictory

Often it is charged that the accounts of the resurrection, as contained in the four gospels, are so contradictory that they cannot be reconciled. However, a reasonable reconciliation of the resurrection accounts is as follows:

  1. After the resurrection, but before dawn on Easter Sunday, an earthquake occurred, an angel rolled away the stone from the entrance to the tomb and then sat upon it (Matthew 28:2-4).
  2. As Sunday morning was beginning to dawn, three women approached the tomb (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome). Their intent was to anoint the body of Jesus with perfumed oil. The oil was to be brought by a second group of women who set out later to the tomb (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-4; John 20:1). They were amazed to find the stone rolled away when they arrived.
  3. At least one of the women entered into the tomb and announced that the body of Jesus was not there. This is an inference from John 20:2.
  4. Mary Magdalene immediately returned to inform Peter and John that someone had removed Jesus' body (John 20:2).
  5. Mary, the mother of James and Joses, along with Salome saw an angel inside the tomb. The angel had the appearance of a young man. The angel announced that Jesus was risen and that they should go tell Jesus' disciples that He would meet them in the Galilee (Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:5-7).
  6. These two women returned to the city without greeting anyone along the way. They were left speechless by the events which transpired (Matthew 28:8; Mark 16:8).
  7. Another group of women from the Galilee, along with Joanna (see Luke 8:3), arrived at the tomb carrying perfumed oil to anoint the body of Jesus. They met the angel, along with another angel (Luke 24:4,23). They then returned to report the angel's message of the resurrection to the eleven as well as to other disciples that had gathered together (Matthew 26:56; Luke 24:1-9; 22:23).
  8. Having been informed by Mary Magdalene that the body was gone, Peter and John (and possibly others Luke 24:24) ran to the tomb without encountering Mary and Salome. They saw the grave clothes and then went back home (John 20:3-10; Luke 24:12). The grave clothes caused John to believe that something had happened.
  9. Mary Magdalene followed Peter and John to the tomb. She saw two angels inside, and then met Jesus after supposing Him to be the gardener (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-17).
  10. Mary Magdalene then returned to inform the disciples that Jesus had risen (Mark 16:10,11; John 20:18).
  11. Mary, the mother of James and Joses, along with Salome meet Jesus on their way back from the tomb. Jesus commands them to tell His disciples that He will meet them in Galilee.
  12. The disciples, who had reports of the empty tomb and resurrection from three sources - Mary Magdalene, Joanna and the women from Galilee, and Mary and Salome, still refused to believe these witnesses (Mark 16:11; Luke 24:11).
  13. During that same afternoon, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the way to Emmaus. They returned to Jerusalem to report the appearance to the eleven and the other disciples (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35).
  14. Jesus appeared to Peter sometime before these two disciples returned to speak to the eleven.
  15. That evening Jesus appeared to ten disciples - Judas was dead and Thomas was absent (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:33; 36-43; John 20:19-23; 1 Corinthians 15:5).
  16. Eight days later, Jesus appeared to the eleven with Thomas being present (John 20:26-29).
  17. Sometime later, seven disciples encountered Jesus on the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-22).
  18. Still later, the eleven met Jesus on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18).
  19. Jesus appeared to more than five hundred people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6).
  20. Jesus appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7).
  21. Before His ascension, He appeared to the eleven near Bethany (Mark 16:9-20; Luke 24:50-52; Acts 1:6-11; 1 Corinthians 15:7).
  22. Finally, Jesus appeared to the Apostle Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9, 22, 26).

This is a reasonable scenario of the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. The fact that we are not exactly certain of their order only goes to prove there was no collusion between the various authors. If the story would have been made up, the different writers would have made certain that there stories matched detail for detail. However, when four different people tell any story, they will all give the same basic account, but there will always be slight differences in the details. The differences only point to the independence of each author.

Objection 12: We Will Never Know And It Does Not Matter

Finally, there is the argument that we will never know what happened to the body of Jesus. It is a mystery that does not have an explanation. Furthermore, it does not really matter what happened.

This argument ignores the facts. It does matter what happened and we can know, if we are willing to look at the evidence.

Summary

In the last two thousand years many theories have been presented that attempt to give an alternative explanation to the one given in Scripture - Christ rose from the dead. Sometimes it is argued that the real story about what happened to Jesus was suppressed. There are those who argue that the accounts of Jesus and His miracles were embellished by His disciples. One of the most popular theories is that His body was stolen. Some have argued against a resurrection by saying that Jesus did not actually die on the cross. One theory has the women going to the wrong tomb on Easter Sunday morning. There is an ancient theory that says that the gardener removed Jesus' body. It has been proposed that Jesus had a twin brother and it was he who appeared after Jesus' death. Many believe the disciples had hallucinations when reporting seeing the risen Christ. Some believe Christ did appear - but only in a vision. Others argue that Jesus appeared to believers only - those who were expecting a resurrection. The reports of the resurrections are thought by some to be hopelessly contradictory. Finally, many believe that it does not really matter what happened.

However none of these objections are adequate, for they do not fully explain all the different lines of evidence. The theory that best fits all the facts is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days after His death and that He is Lord of all!

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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